America's Babylonian Captivity?
I find myself thinking of Israel and Judah in 1 and 2 Kings. Israel apostatized immediately and completely after the split with Judah, embracing the worship of Baal and Moloch and never looking back. Israel was eventually smashed to atoms by Assyria after ignoring God's warnings that things would not end well for her if she did not repent. Judah apostatized slowly and had its good and bad spells as it circled the drain before finally ending in the Babylonian Captivity. But the fact is, both apostatized and both eventually paid the piper—as shall we if we will not face the fact that God is not mocked.
The Dems embraced the worship of Moloch thirty-six years ago and have never looked back (though the existence of people like Bart Stupak raises one's hopes that there may be a remnant that does not bow the knee to Moloch in that party). The GOP has made a vague and transparently reluctant gesture of caring about human life, which kept me voting for them for years on the off chance they might occasionally do something. And occasionally, they have.
But with the advent of Bush/Cheney Conservatism, the GOP too has embraced intrinsic moral evil in the dangerous form of cheerleading for torture. With the exception of a couple of leading lights in the Thing That Used to Be Conservatism (for instance, John McCain [sort of] and Ron Paul), the grave intrinsic sin of torture is now as much a pillar of conservative ideology as abortion is of liberal ideology. To criticize it is to be called evil and anti-American by the bulk of Movement Conservatives, just as to criticize abortion is likewise to be called evil and anti-American by the bulk of liberals.
So I find that the chances are growing ever slimmer that I can support either party's candidate if they spout the increasingly common party lines in favor of one or other (occasionally both) of these intrinsic evils. My reason for this is simple and eminently theological: It's not that I'm a closet Obama supporter. (In fact, I think Obama's actions with respect to torture have been dodgy and dangerous. And don't even get me started on his zeal for the sacrament of abortion!) It's that I'm a Catholic who thinks that when the Church declares something inexcusably evil, it must not be supported with excuses, much less celebrated as heroic. That goes for both abortion and torture. Indeed, in my more quixotic moments, I'm even a Catholic who hopes that the state will resume its traditional role of supporting the common good and not merely "not doing grave evil."
That is because, at the end of the day, I don't believe that the state or the corporation or the party are what history is about. I believe history is about Jesus Christ, not the American experiment, nor any other state or nation that is a mere human creation. I believe that Christ is the center of history and I believe that the family, as the image and likeness of God is the most crucial thing on earth, short of the Blessed Sacrament. Therefore, I believe that the center of Catholic social teaching is the good of the family. All my bleats of protest, whether at the sacred Dem sins of abortion and gay "marriage," or the sacred GOP sin of torture, have in view my conviction that these evils constitute an enormous peril to the family because they empower something else—whether the individual, the state, or the corporation—to play the tyrant over the good of the family (in addition to being Just Plain Wrong). And I believe that the family matters ultimately because it is the primal human sign of the Blessed Trinity.
That's why I find myself forced to talk about political stuff like abortion, torture, and gay "marriage" and any other grave evils our Ruling Classes may attempt to transmogrify into signs of National Greatness: because these things are inseparable from my faith as a Catholic. It's also why I find myself at sixes and sevens with any political ideology. In the words of Treebeard, I am not on anybody's side because nobody is on my side.
I try to be on the side of Catholic social teaching. I often fail whether through lack of wit or charity. But I see no alternative to that approach to ordering my political life, since I am aware of no party that views the teaching of the Church as something other than a thing to be exploited when useful and castigated when it stands in the way of their pursuit of the One Ring. Therefore, as a free man, I make use of political parties when they support Church teaching and reject them when and where they do not.
Mark P. Shea is a senior editor at The Catholic Exchange, and a columnist for Crisis Magazine. Visit his blog at Catholic and Enjoying It. This piece originally appeared at www.mark-shea.com and is reprinted with permission.